How important is foot health to your dancing technique? It really can’t be overestimated. The arch — the middle portion — of the foot can greatly impact your dancing technique as well as your overall body alignment. Just like anyone else’s feet, dancers’ feet can be described in terms of the shapes of their arches: some have particularly high or low arches or what’s commonly described as “flat feet.”
The Foot’s 4 Arches
What’s often referred to as a single structure actually consists of four separate arches:
• anterior lateral longitudinal
• medial longitudinal
Both the lateral longitudinal and medial longitudinal arches run along from the heel to the base of the toes. The lateral longitudinal arch passes along the foot’s outer edge, ending near the fifth metatarsal, or pinky toe. Named for its proximity to the body’s midline, the medial longitudinal arch runs along the opposite side, running toward the first metatarsal, or big toe.
The other two arches run perpendicular to the longitudinal arches. The metatarsal arch spans the five metatarsal bones, running along the base of the toes, while the traverse arch runs across the lower ankle, essentially following the lines of the elastic on a ballet slipper. These two arches are important for achieving balance and stability, especially en relevé.
If a dancer has weak lateral longitudinal arches, supination — the foot’s “rolling” downward and toward the body — can result. By contrast, flattened or weak medial longitudinal arches can lead to pronation — the opposite of supination — in which the foot moves up and away from the body. In addition, those with pronounced medial longitudinal arches (a.k.a. high arches) are especially prone to supination. (For images of the anatomical movements mentioned, see this website.)
Common Foot Injuries
It’s no surprise that both of the most common injuries which dancers experience relate to the foot. Dancers can easily injure their feet if they fail to give careful attention to them. A common culprit in foot injuries is having improper alignment either en relevé or during landings from jumps, resulting in a sprained ankle or a fifth metatarsal fracture. In fact, the latter injury type is so common among dancers, that it’s sometimes referred to as “Dancer’s Fracture.”
When the foot and arch are poorly aligned, one result can be weakening of the ligaments connecting the bones of the foot. Due to that weakening, a fallen arch can result. A fallen arch entails loss of flexibility and lift in the longitudinal arches. And it’s permanent. Often, fallen arches also bring with them other conditions, including fractures, tendonitis, and problems with the foot’s skin and toenails.
If a dancer has improper technique or fallen arches, the alignment of the body is greatly impacted, possibly causing injury to the ankle, knee, hip or back.
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